Monday, April 13, 2015


I was reminded yesterday on another blog, of the writer’s remembrance of helping her Mother prepare for afternoon ROOK parties.   She told of the pimiento cheese spread they made for sandwiches, even gave the recipe (sounded lovely---lots of SHARP Cheddar, grated fine on the big box grater, as it should be), and showed the slightly-worn box of little cutters used for the fancy sandwiches.   They were in “card shapes” of heart, diamond, spade and puppy-foot, as well as a neat little crescent moon, which I don’t suppose symbolized anything, for it looked like a little lagniappe bit of filler to fit the box.

In our area, my parents’ Rook parties were for an evening at the big round breakfast-room table, with nibbles and snacks, including Paminna Cheese in one form or another---in sandwiches, not quite so dainty as the above, or in a bowl or neat mound or mold surrounded by Premiums or Ritz, or nestled into the niche of short cuts of celery, crisp and cold against that smooth, tangy spread.   Rook was for four, and seldom were there extra tables---just another couple invited to play for a couple of hours, as the big frosty glasses of iced tea or maybe beer were set right onto the table, carefully out of harm’s way amongst the lively slap-down of trumps or that elusive bird.    Coffee was started somewhere later in the game, and I’d get the dessert cut and all served up onto little plates---my homemade Pound Cake or Coconut Cake, or chess pie---nothing too elaborate or messy amongst the cards and ashtrays and cups.  

My folks never played Bridge---I think my Mother felt it a little above them, for most of our neighbors were of the Country Club set and the Bridge and Garden and Civic clubs, whereas Mother belonged only to Home Demonstration and Missionary Society, and Daddy’s only organization was Masons.   I think she thought that the ladies of Wednesday Bridge or Thursday Bridge had their own social level, their own topics of conversation like fashion and travel and social connections in Memphis and Greenville and Jackson, whereas in our home, it was also books, but cooking and sewing, crosswords and Monopoly, and the people we knew were mostly like us---once-a-year-Rock City types, not Hawaii or Rome.

And Jeanne, our diagonal neighbor---she of the beauty shop permanents and the subscription to Seventeen, of the Saturday afternoons spent one-foot-languidly-moving the big porch swing as she sat with her petticoated-skirt spread out and a whole icy pitcher of lemonade next to her glass, would sometimes allow me to come over whilst her Mother and Daddy hosted BRIDGE.  (Personally I’ve always thought that she wanted to show off a bit, or that she was bored, for the only TV was in the Living Room, and she was at loose ends for the afternoon).

Several times a month, the half-dozen cars would line their drive on weekday afternoons, a sure sign that the Wednesday Afternoon or the Thursday Afternoon Bridge Club was in residence, with Mattie bringing out the little cream-cheese-and-pecan sandwiches and the Bridge Mix and coffee, and later, the Manhattans. (And them a mere two houses from the Baptist Church).   I was fascinated by even the term Bridge Mix---just think of having a special candy for such a circumscribed use---and loved the thought of it as much as the few nibbles offered to me over the years at my friend Jeanne’s house.

In Summer, we'd hide and watch all the festivities, braving the clots of smoke to listen and giggle from the hall. We also got to scavenge at the limp, leftover trays of dainties when they went back to the kitchen. That's where I first saw "checkerboard sandwiches"---a tooo-twee concoction involving spreading crustless white bread with good sharp heavy pimiento cheese, stacking them someway criss-cross, and making a pattern that you cut down through, stack again, rotating each one ninety degrees, and cut again, so that the slices laid on the luncheon plate are little yellow and white checkerboards.

Like this, only with bright-orange Paminna Cheese spread, and white bread.

Quite striking and a lotta trouble, plus you had to have a fork to eat the thing, so they must have broken for refreshments instead of munching out of hand like we always did at our cutthroat games of Rook or Monopoly.

And I still cannot pass that Brach’s display in the grocery store---the one with all the little sections and scoops and bags-for-filling, without thinking of that elusive, too-fancy-for-us Bridge Mix.

                                                                         My PAXTON PEOPLE Blog


Jeanne said...

Hello Rachel, I can't stop smiling at your post today. My family played every card game there is and my parents also played Bridge. They never belonged to a country club.LOL.
Your description of the little sandwiches and the Bridge mix is very familiar. My mother also played Bridge with her lady friends and it was a fancy affair. I will say the Bridge playing was very serious. Each lady paid a whopping 50 cents and the winner won the money. She taught her daughters how to play and we play to this day. Bill and I play duplicate Bridge at the community center every Weds. The fancy lunches are never served. Just serious card playing. We enjoy it so much.

When my parents were young and we lived in the farm house all 10 of the brother's and sisters and spouses would come over on Sat. night and they played pinnacle. Lots of laughter and fun while we were sent to bed. A great memory.

I have never seen the cute checkerboard sandwiches. I can honestly say my mother's sandwiches were shaped like spades, diamonds, hearts and puppy's feet. Big smile here. She also had little dishes in the same shapes. Thanks for the memory my sweet friend. I truly loved this post.

I love you too,

Note: I was going through my old posts and found the PS post where I featured your blog. I had forgotten that I did that. Do you remember when I did that?

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Darling Rachel,

We love playing cards and board games of all descriptions and levels of difficulty. However, Bridge has eluded us too. Finding another couple to play regularly and remembering all the combinations and moves in between infrequent matches is just impossible.

Our favourite is Mah Jong and we have a lovely set of bamboo pieces with which to play. The 'tiles' sound like birds chirruping when they are shuffled about, they feel wonderful and the designs are so very pretty. And, the winning moves are so gloriously descriptive....'picking the cherry blossom from the roof', how marvellous is that for a winning hand?!

We love the idea of your checkerboard sandwiches. Afternoon Tea is an institution for us and these sound ideal. Probably it would be an egg mayonnaise filling for us....we are not over fond of cheese!

racheld said...

Dear Jeanne,

It's lovely to hear of your close, loving family and all the things Y'all did together. Bridge has simply eluded me---I was invited several times to the afternoon parties after I was an adult, and though I pick up most anything really quickly if you show me once, it was impossible to capture all the nuances and terminology with the hostess standing over my shoulder, at a full table of seasoned players who were obviously being hindered by my ignorance, as she would reach in, grab a card from my hand and lay it down. "Play THIS one now," and "That one," are just not lessons conducive to learning.

But I did enjoy the company, despite my embarrassment at being the novice holding back the ladies who'd come to PLAY.

I love hearing about your family games, and the spirit of companionship and camaraderie they evoke. The little cutters and dishes are simply a marvelous memory of such a long-ago time, when "taking pains" was not a painful process, but a delightful part of entertaining as you got out the good cake plates and the silver-rimmed glasses.

The memories we share will keep us close, though we may never meet.


racheld said...

Dear, Dear Hattatts,

We, too are Mah Jongg players, having been given a gorgeous old set way back in the seventies. A dear older lady had it out and waiting for me one day when I dropped off her groceries and mail, It was in a pretty leather case, with crushed-down midnight velvet inside, marked forever with the indentations of the tiles.

The tiles must have been ivory, I think, for they had the tinge of old piano keys in a forgotten parlor, and were way too heavy for Bakelite. I asked my friend who owned the Chinese grocery (not simply for Asian foodstuffs, but delineated as so to distinguish from Mr. Melton's store or Piggly Wiggly) if she could recommend someone to give me lessons, and she immediately invited me to their Sunday-afternoon game at her house.

It was a splendid afternoon, with two tables of bright, well-dressed ladies talking all over each other in syllables and tones I'd never understand, but which was like some sort of addictive music as they played, punctuated by a PUNG or CHOW or BAM. as they clicked down tiles in such a blur of motion that it was like watching a whole table of sleight-of-hand masters.

I loved the games, learned not nearly what I should have, was treated as an honoured guest, and met some lovely people, who exclaimed and made little tik-tiks of admiration when I brought our game one day.

And now, I enjoy the glorious colours and shapes and designs of all the choices in my online game---everything from the original to automobile emblems and flags-of-nations, in the "new" game in which you match two free tiles, click, and they wisp away into air, like those talented fingers used to do with the tiles on those hot Summer afternoons at Mrs. Wing's.

And Egg Mayonnaise it is---with a dab of good heavy grainy mustard (mine's Inglehoffer's) and some darker bread. The checkerboard is quite impressive, but it's boggling me right now to think how to cut and turn those "tiles" to make them fit.

And for tea-time, have Timea wrap a few dates in half-slices of bacon, spear through with toothpicks, and bake at 350 until the bacon's crisp. If you're fancy, put a little crumb of bleu cheese INSIDE the split date before wrapping.

I think you're probably pretty close to tea-time right now.
Wish you could be here, but if you could see my house, you wouldn't eat my cookin'.


Patsy said...

I have The Bennie's mothers luncheon and card party recipes.
Sometime I would like to make them just for fun.

Kelley said...

Wow! Now I know why Brachs called it Bridge Mix!

I love your writing style!


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Darling Rachel,

How marvellous it would be to play Mah Jong together and munch on checkerboard sandwiches......egg mayonnaise and mustard....fabulous! Of course, the mustard would now have to be Colmans after our move to is a famous Norwich institution and our house was built for workers at the Colmans factory!

An invitation to your house for your cooking would be delightful....any time!

Kim S. said...

Oh, what wonderful memories you brought back and how wonderfully you tell it, as always. You know, I remember SOME kind of card parties from when I was very little, but I’m not sure what they were. I know that we had family card parties with Canasta, Pinochle, Pit. But these were casual affairs with chips and dip and sipping out of those little Co’cola bottles. The fancy parties took place in the early 1960’s when my parents were still married and folks dressed nice, drank cocktails and ate nut mixes (from the Sears nut counter – remember those?) and olives.

And Bridge Mix was weird. I’d always pick what I thought was a chocolate covered nut and it would turn out to be some squishy crème or candied fruit. Bleah!